Teaching Hub

Perpetually Silent Students (Repost)


A recent post from Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor eNewsletter features some great tips for engaging students in class discussions:

Crickets refers to utter silence across an entire class, but the problem we’re addressing here pertains to individual students who never talk or post. The possible reasons for silence are numerous. Students may be shy, reserved, or introverted; they may be dealing with a learning disability, anxiety, grief, depression, medical challenges, or autism (see the later section on students with autism spectrum disorder); the classroom climate may make them feel isolated or uneasy; their jobs may leave them perpetually exhausted; they may feel uncomfortable expressing themselves in English; they may come from a culture that frowns on students who speak out publicly; or there may be other reasons. Some of the remedies for crickets, specifically those remedies that reduce the risk of contributing, may bring out some of the ever-quiet students (Bold, 2011; Nilson, 2016):

  • Ask the class several easy recall questions on the assigned readings or other homework. These questions will reduce anxiety, and after one or two students break the ice, others are more likely to feel comfortable speaking.
  • Ask for students’ emotional reactions to the assigned readings or other homework. Again, these are easy questions that should evoke a student reaction.
  • Give a writing prompt, such as a reflective question, on the assigned readings or other homework. This exercise will refresh students’ memory of the homework.

Read the full post on the newsletter’s website.